"Diary from America" by Seiko Yoshinaga
(in a newsletter for The Contemporary Women's Culture Institute, no.18, fall 2007)

"Grannies are Enraged!"

Why don't you come to the Square at the Farmers' Market on Saturdays, if you would like to witness the power of women elders? About ten women in their 60s or 70s who dress up in colorful aprons and flowery hats introduce themselves with big smiles to the audience. There goes their performance. The first song is a parody of "God Bless America", a popular patriotic song everybody knows.
"God Help America. My home sweet home"
Next is "Scar Strangled Banner". Under the blazing sun they keep singing one song after another satirizing the Bush/Cheney government. Shoppers at the Farmers' Market stop to listen to them--some smile, others beat time with their hands, or join the chorus. Some take a picture of them. No group is more popular with people at the Square than the "Raging Grannies" in Madison.

According to one account, the original "Raging Grannies" were ones who handed broken-heart chocolates to a legislator, the head of the Canadian defense committee, on Valentines Day in 1987 in British Columbia. They were enraged at him for not opposing the stop of a US nuclear submarine at a Canadian port. Putting up umbrellas with holes, they satirized the Canadian government's reliance on protection by an American nuclear umbrella. Some Grannies rowed a canoe towards the submarine in protest.

Since then more and more Raging Grannies, who sing satirical songs in eye-catching attire, have appeared in Canada and the US. There are now 60 branches in the two countries. They are also spreading to Japan, Greece, England, Australia, Israel, Russia, New Zealand... and more.

Even though they are "Raging," their strategy is totally non-violent, and their weapons are only laughter and parodied songs. Fortunately, since the image of grannies has been always sweet, wise and cute, they never scare people. Taking advantage of their harmlessness and powerlessness, they have made a clearer and more substantial statement than any politicians. They receive no financial support, so they are free from control from anybody. They do not make just anti-war campaigns, but figure out the systematic and structural vice which creates wars. Now they are against everything from digging uranium to manufacturing and sale of nuclear weapons, the cozy alliance of militarism and big business, racism, felling natural woods, human trafficking, abuse of prisoners---any and all social and political injustice.

Raging Grannies are active. They were finally arrested for trespassing of a building in 2005. This is how it started. As usual they sang "God Help America" in front of a Marine Recruit Center in New Mexico and then entered the building. They read their statement, in which they requested to be sent to Iraq to see Iraq women there, and the withdrawal of US soldiers and business out of Iraq right away. Then they distributed cookies to the marines in the office and started persuading them out of their service. "You are fooled by the government" blah, blah, ........ They were arrested by policemen who had been called upon. "They did not seem to understand our joke.." They were released right away and featured in the media.

Grannies admit their weak points. They tend to believe unproved information or rumors and act on them. They often focus on one movement and lose the sight of the whole picture. They would like to believe conspiracy theories, etc. However, while apologizing for their occasional carelessness and one-sided actions, they are real strategists. One day they appear in elegant dresses and next day they dance a "Granny Cancan" or swear in a skit, throwing away their lady-like image. They always attract media.

ls any qualification needed for joining the Raging Grannies? You do not necessarily have to be old or an authentic "grandma". No need for singing ability. You only need Granny-style attire (flowery hats and apron dress, etc.), a sense of humor, objectivity, moderate flexibility for compromise, courage for speaking up, curiosity, an adventurous spirit, passion, joy. No racists. Science lovers are welcome. Finally, those with historical and geographical sense, and with awareness of where they stand are most welcome.

Raging Grannies are challenging power with their maturity and sense of humor and without fear. Why don't you organize a branch in Tokyo?

The City of Madison's "Raging Grannies". With great fashion sense too!